Penguins' physicality, discipline key in Game 1 victory
Disciplined physicality was pivotal for the Penguins in the Game 1 victory over the Lightning, and they'll try that approach tonight in Game 2 of their best-of-seven, first round Stanley Cup playoff series.
The Penguins, the NHL's most penalized team during the regular season, also were third in recorded hits. The Lightning rated 27th in hits, but won that statistical category in the series opener, 44-35.
However, the Lightning, which rated 14th in regular-season penalties, was shorthanded six times in Game 1 — though only one of its seven penalties was for roughing.
"Sometimes, it's better to get a stick on the puck than making that first hit," Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier said.
Playing physical against the brute-force Penguins didn't doom the Lightning as much as careless fouls. Tampa Bay was called for holding, hooking, tripping and high sticking.
Still, there were interference and cross-checking penalties to go along with that roughing foul.
"We deserved those penalties," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said, noting that the Penguins were shorthanded only once and penalized just three times in the series opener.
"Either they're really smart about it, or we aren't smart about it," he said.
The Penguins realize that being shorthanded against the Lightning — one of six teams with a 20-percent efficiency rate on the power play during the regular season — could prove problematic in a short series. In response, coaches have stressed smart over hard when it comes to hitting.
That wasn't the case early during the regular season, when the Penguins' push to establish themselves as a physical presence often led to numerous power plays for opponents.
"With our (top-ranked) penalty kill, I'm not so sure we even saw it as a problem," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We needed to be more disciplined, and we've been much better at that."
LIGHTNING BY THE NUMBERS
The Lightning have been outscored, 16-2, in three games at Consol Energy Center — all losses. First periods away from Tampa haven't been kind to the Lightning against the Penguins:
• Nov. 12 (road): 0 goals on 3 shots
• Jan. 5 (road): 0 goals on 8 shots
• Wednesday (road): 0 goals on 14 shots
• Oct. 27 (home): 2 goals on 8 shots
• March 31 (home): 2 goals on 8 shots
"Even though I play on his team, I get scared of him a little bit. He definitely has a death stare. You don't know what he's thinking, but (they're) not good thoughts."
Penguins forward, on defenseman Brooks Orpik
"I heard (Alex) Ovechkin talking the other day. He said it took him three years to figure out how to play in the playoffs. (Steven Stamkos) is humble enough to know he has a lot to learn."
Lightning coach, on the disappointing playoff debut of third-year sensation Stamkos
AROUND THE SERIES
• Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis practiced Thursday despite needing dental work after he absorbed a high stick from Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek in Game 1 at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night. "He's a warrior," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of St. Louis. "I would have been very surprised if he wasn't at practice."
• The Penguins had an optional practice, one that included center Sidney Crosby -- though he still has not been cleared by team doctors for full-contact activities. Crosby has taken part in nine on-ice practices since being cleared for non-contact activity March 30. Four of those sessions have been off-day practices. The Penguins had said Crosby was cleared only for "morning skate" sessions.
• Army Sgt. Bob Timney of State College will once again perform the national anthem tonight. His rendition for Game 1 received rave reviews because of his motion for the sellout crowd sing along to a verse.
"Look for Tampa to be more disciplined. I don't think there's going to be a 6-1 (power play) disparity in Game 2. Both teams have to guard that. You can't go to the box."
On the Penguins' defense:
"I give them an 'A.' Brooks Orpik's bone-crushing hits really set the tone. They limited Tampa's scoring chances. For (goalie Marc-Andre) Fleury and the defense to pull a goose egg was a tough feat, with all the scoring (the Lightning) have."
On Tampa being flustered by Fleury:
"Tampa's game plan was to crash and bump him. He was laughing. When you see him laughing, it's demoralizing to a point. Some goalies are like pitchers; you can't go near them. Fleury is approachable. Having a goalie with that attitude makes it easier to play in front of him."
On what to expect the Lightning to do differently:
"I assume they're going to throw more pucks at the net, create more traffic and be more physical. I think you'll see Tampa's physical meter go up. When there was a loose puck, you have a choice of puck or body. The Pens went after the body, then the puck; Tampa went after the puck."
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